From the definition of kleptocracy:

a society whose leaders make themselves rich and powerful by stealing from the rest of the people

And the definition of government:

the group of people with the authority to govern and tax a country or state

It seems challenging to associate any given state with being a kleptocracy given that, governments, by definition tax the public to fund public initiatives: infrastructure, military, education, ect.


When does a state enter "kleptocracy" territory? Does history have any clear examples?

  • 1
    This seems to be more a taxation is theft line than a real question.
    – Fizz
    Feb 2 at 6:02
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    Doesn't Wikipedia give examples?
    – Fizz
    Feb 2 at 6:09
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    How is funding public initiatives equivalent to "making themselves rich and powerful"?. They may be powerful because they decide how the country is run, but that doesn't mean they're pocketing the tax money.
    – Barmar
    Feb 2 at 6:48
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    I think this question is missing an important point. A kleptocracy is about government officials using their authority to enrich their own, personal property. It is not about the state as an artificial legal entity enriching itself through taxation.
    – Philipp
    Feb 2 at 12:00
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    @user253751 People who legally own stuff and do legal things with it are no more kleptocratic than legal taxes. The definition of kleptocracy is that the power of the state is used to steal i.e. take things in violation of the law. Take a look at the Wikipedia article. Kleptocracy is not the same as plutocracy or oligarchy. Feb 2 at 14:43

Theft is by definition an illegal taking. So states where the law provides for guarantees about property, but everyday practice by the powerful ignores that law, are kleptocracies. E.g. a policeman stops you for an imaginary traffic offence but then solicits a bribe rather than writing you up. Or where government contracts are routinely let in return for kickbacks. This is distinct from taxes imposed by the legislature and spent on things also approved by the legislature.

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